I had a distant relation that once said to my sister “Oh, you are so clever, you put water in the vase so people think your flowers are REAL!” Duh, they were fresh, dumbbell! I do not consider fake flowers to be flowers at all. I mean, do people put fake food (a la Japanese restaurant windows) on the buffet just to catch your eye? Continuing on the theme of floral arrangements that are simple, easy and economical (please see previous post on orchids), this one focuses on white roses en masse. The other night at the wholesale flower market I purchased about 40 dozen white roses from Baguio at P30-35 per dozen, also for use at the fundraiser I did for some friends. Sold in bundles of 2 dozen, the white roses are an amazingly reasonable P60-70 per bundle (they double in price near the Christmas and Valentines holidays). While they are “second-class” in the sense that they are not as perfect as the imported hybrid roses from Holland or South America, I think they look terrific when massed together. These roses are irregular, often with crooked stems but that is part of their charm. For most guests, they wouldn’t have the foggiest clue that these were “first class” or not… If you were used to taking a ferry to Cebu then a jet airplane seems like a step up, whether you are up front in first class or back in cattle (or kambing) class…
The key to these roses is to buy more than you need and throw out the icky ones. Get them fresh – delivery at the wholesale markets is between 9pm to 2am and you see massive styrofoam coolers being unloaded from trucks and their contents disgorged to the dealers. The roses that are packed with some ice will be of superior quality to the ones that are hot to the touch. Take the roses home and “condition” them before use. This is a really important step if you want the roses to last. To condition, fill a large pail with clean, cool water. If you have flower food, add it to the water, otherwise a drop or two of clorox will do (to keep bacterial growth at bay). Cut 2-3 inches off the bottom of the rose stems at a slanted angle and plunge the stems into the water. Ideally, the water should go up at least 2/3 of the stem or more. Store the roses in a cool area (or airconditioned room you are sleeping in BUT out of the air drafts) overnight or at least twelve hours. This gives the roses time to recover from their travel ordeal. The water will make their stems turgid (stiffer) and generally revive the whole flower.
Okay. To some simple arrangements. The arrangement in the first photo up top is a take on a Jeff Leatham arrangement. Leatham is a florist working at the Four Seasons George V in Paris and single-handedly wowed the prissy Parisian elite by putting out stunning after stunning public floral arrangements in simple glass vases. My version: take a tall clear glass vase and fill almost to the brim with clean, cool water. Then, strip the leaves and thorns off about 36-48 nice white roses and arrange them into a tight bouquet in in one hand. Then carefully balance the bouquet at an angle against the vase. It looks precarious but it really isn’t. The weight of the water in the vase almost always compensates for the odd angle of the flowers. I have done this dozens of times and never tipped a vase. Guests almost always notice the unusual treatment of such a usual flower. Total cost if you buy two bundles would be just P120-130 and about 20 minutes of preparation time. I have a rose stripper gadget that makes life simple, will feature it soon.
Other easy arrangements include cutting off most of the rose stem and just floating the flower in large bowls or vases of water. Again, Leatham did this to the extreme by taking some of the most costly and enormous roses and just using the heads in huge displays in the lobby of the George V. It sounds like such a waste to cut the stems but the roses look terrific when treated this way. Pick only the nicest looking roses as they will be subject to close-up scrutiny. Finally, the third arrangement in the photo at right is a more usual stuff-the-roses-in-a-glass-vase arrangement. Nothing wrong, always classic and beautiful. And just in case you are rolling your eyes and thinking this man has completely lost his marbles, I have not. I have trained my staff inside and outside the house to do these arrangements rather well. At the recent fundraiser, my three assistants whipped out over 12 arrangements in less than an hour and a half, thorn stripping included. No excuses for the artificial flowers, please.